he Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed Thursday afternoon that an unnamed pregnant woman from the South Bay and her unborn child died of influenza A (H1N1). It has not been released in which of the beach cities the woman resided.
“This sad event demonstrates that serious complications can occur with flu infection in pregnant women,” said Jonathan E. Fielding, Director of the CDPH. “Therefore, it is critical that all pregnant and postpartum women get vaccinated to protect themselves against the flu.”
As of today, in LA County, a total of 52 confirmed deaths due to influenza among men, women and children has been reported this flu season. More than 200 flu-related deaths have been reported in California. The Department of Public Health has said that this is the third pregnant women who died from the flu statewide this season, although it was not released where those other women lived.
“We recommend that everyone, six months of age or older, receive either the influenza shot or the nasal spray vaccine,” Fielding said. “And everyone should practice basic hygiene, such as hand washing and covering coughs and sneezes, to prevent the spread of influenza and other respiratory diseases.”
The flu poses greatest threat to at-risk populations like children, the elderly, pregnant and postpartum women and those with chronic disease.
“This flu season, like the first pandemic of H1N1 in 2009, has been especially dangerous for pregnant women,” said Lisa Santora, Chief Medical Officer for Beach Cities Health District (BCHD) in Redondo Beach. “And we have seen the highest flu-related rate countywide since 2009.”
Pregnant and postpartum women are more likely than any other population to have severe complications from the flu. But the risk can be mitigated by vaccine at any time.
“Pregnant women can be vaccinated at any stage of their pregnancy,” said Fielding. “For pregnant women with flu-like illness, immediate treatment with antiviral medication is recommended even before influenza testing is confirmed. Symptoms of the flu include fever, cough, headache, and muscle ache within the first three to five days of illness.”
“This story reinforces importance of vaccinations,” Santora said. “It is also important to stay in optimal health with nutritional eating, hand washing and physical activity. We have seen increased hospitalizations for the flu and this can be partially attributed to the obesity epidemic.”
Because immunity from flu vaccination declines over time and the strains of the flu virus can change from year to year, the Center for Disease Control says it is important to get vaccinated annually. Influenza accounts for up to 220,000 hospitalizations, and an average of 24,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.
For more information on influenza and vaccinations, L.A. county residents can call 211 or visit www.ph.lacounty.gov.